Aphorisms by Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern is best known as a poet, and a teacher at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, but in 2004 he published a book of aphorisms, Not God After All (Autumn House Press). In the introduction, Stern explains that he wrote the aphorisms over a period of about two weeks in the spring of 2002, quite a sustained period of spontaneous aphoristic combustion. “These aphorisms, petite narratives, whatever they are … represent my feelings during that time, feelings that were angry, arch, focused, political and unified,” he writes. “They also reflect both my reading and the sheer accident of my experience.” Once again, I thank the ever aphoristically alert Jim Finnegan (check out his blog, ursprache) for bringing Stern’s aphorisms my attention.

Walking down I don’t count the stairs
as I do when walking up.

If there was time I’d stop
saying good morning to Zeno.

There is no difference between
one whip and another.

What is more bloodthirsty and
oppressive, God or Country?